Super Mario 3D World Review
Super Mario 3D World marks the red plumber’s first 3D adventure on the Wii U. A hybrid of 2D and 3D platforming, 3D World attempts to merge gameplay from several prior Mario titles together while still making creative strides and increasing accessibility. The result is a game that, on one hand, is incredibly fun and addictive, but on the other hand, feels a little too safe and familiar.
Let’s start with what works. As always, Mario’s latest adventure is brimming with colorful imagery and diverse gameplay. One minute you’ll be swinging from carnival trapeze bars, and the next, you’ll be riding Plessie, a prehistoric sea creature, down a massive waterfall. Even though the worlds may follow the familiar trajectories of prior Mario titles (grassy worlds, desert worlds, snow worlds, etc.), the numerous power-ups add plenty of variety to the gameplay. You can now frolic through the fields as a cat; you can chart the desert by controlling five Mario characters at once with the cherry power-ups; you can breeze through the snow levels in an oversized ice skate. It’s all very creative and a whole lot of fun.
Princess Peach, bashing a Goomba's face in with an ice skate. Rated E for Everyone.
The music is fantastic and goes a long way towards immersing you into these bright and colorful worlds. There are several remixes of prior tunes, appearing right alongside the new and jazzy orchestral arrangements. From beginning to end, the music of 3D World is simply a delight.
The new multiplayer mode certainly adds replay value to the experience. Like in the turnip-filled Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi, Peach, and Toad can join in on the fun, this time via local co-op. In fact, playing 3D World with others in the room really elevates the experience, especially if you choose to play competitively. The biggest issue with multiplayer involves the camera, which either pulls out significantly or sucks one of the players off screen. Furthermore, a giant blue frame appears around the screen to warn players that are drifting too far apart. Unfortunately, the frame seems to appear at random, and it’s ultimately more distracting than helpful.
For a series that prides itself on platforming, I have several issues with the gameplay of 3D World, which feels the least precise of recent Mario titles. I suspect this stems from Nintendo’s adamant attempt to increase accessibility by allowing multiple controller options. For example, you can play 3D World using the GamePad, the Wii Remote, the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, the Wii U Pro Controller, or even the older Wii Pro Controller. Supporting all of these controller options actually hinders the experience by restricting customizability (you cannot switch the jump and run buttons, for instance) and diminishing the basic gameplay mechanics (there is limited, eight-directional movement).
In World 2-1, you search for your litter box, take a nap, and then cough up two hairballs.
In short, the game does not at all feel designed to take advantage of the Wii U GamePad, but instead feels crafted to reach the widest audience. This is a shame, considering Mario’s 3D outings have traditionally shown off the true capabilities of Nintendo’s hardware. The Captain Toad missions, as well as the few required “GamePad only” levels, are welcome additions that utilize the GamePad’s potential, but these moments feel like an added bonus and not part of the core game.
I mentioned earlier that 3D World has some wonderful color effects and graphical fidelity, but there is nothing here that shows the true power of the system. It’s clear that the game is based around the 3DS’ stellar Super Mario 3D Land, yet the lack of stereoscopic 3D truly affects the gameplay on Nintendo’s home console. Judging distances is surprisingly challenging on the Wii U, and depth perception becomes an issue whenever precise jumps are required. This is a Mario game, so yes, it’s a frustrating complaint, and you’re bound to lose multiple lives due to this issue. Oftentimes, a shadow is the only way to tell exactly where you’ll land, and the lighting does not always provide that luxury.
Even Toad is concerned with the direction of the series.
This problem is exacerbated by the strange running mechanics that require button prompts. Mario does not automatically run as you move the control stick forward (as he did in Galaxy); instead, you must hold the B button, which is frustratingly timed. This means your character will not begin to run until an allotted time has past (a couple of seconds), which adds a sense of unpredictability to the gameplay. This run mechanic, coupled with the imprecise depth perception, can make 3D World feel clunky.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Super Mario 3D World to the Mario Galaxy games, yet when 3D World is pitched as a fully-realized 3D Mario game and has received near equal acclaim, the comparisons feel warranted. Super Mario 3D World feels like a no-frills version of prior Mario titles (including 64, Sunshine, and the Galaxy games) with smaller levels, a diminished emphasis on exploration, and recycled boss battles. In the end, there is nothing particularly wrong with 3D World, but there is also nothing that pushes the game towards greatness. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, but it does not set the bar high for future Wii U games; it merely builds upon the potential of its handheld counterpart, Super Mario 3D Land, without ever truly surpassing it.
Please note that the final score is not an average